What Are Megabats and Microbats?

Bats are one of the most fascinating creatures on Earth! Not only are they the only mammal capable of true flight, they are valuable components to our surrounding ecosystem and environment. There are more than 100,000 species of bat found all over the world. Although there are thousands of species, every single one can be placed under one of two categories; Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera. Continue reading to learn the difference between mega and microbats, as well as, a few interesting facts and characteristics for each.

Microchiroptera

Microbats, or Microchiroptera, are also referred to colloquially by several other names; including Echolocating bats, small bats, insectivorous bats, and true bats. They are most famous for their use of echolocation. Echolocation, also called bio sonar, is a sonar-like method used to map out a grid of a bats’ surroundings. Although bats are not blind, like most myths suggest, they require the use of such methods for finding food and hunting their prey. It works by emitting small beeps or calls out to the surrounding environment, and listening for the return of echoes bouncing off objects around them. Various animals in the animal kingdom use bio sonar; such as dolphins, whales, shrews, and some cave-bird species.

Microbats are small, some as tiny as 2 grams! They have large ears, but very small eyes. They generally eat insects; however, larger species of Microchiroptera actually hunt small prey like frogs, lizards, rodents, and even birds or fish. Vampire bats are a species of Microbat that drink the blood of their prey. Common species of Microchiroptera include the Spotted Bat, Bumblebee Bat, Inland Forest Bat, Leaf-Nosed Bats, Northern Free-Tailed Bat, Horseshoe Bat, and the Spear-Nosed Bat.

Megachiroptera

Megachiroptera, or megabats, are much larger than micros. They can weigh up to 4 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 5 or 6 feet! They have very large eyes, and a much broader wingspan. They are generally found in tropical climates, where the weather is warm and moist. Unlike microbats, the Megachiroptera do not use bio sonar to locate and hunt for food. Instead, they use their keen vision and sense of smell to find their favorites meals; such as pollen, nectar, plants, and ripened fruit. That’s right; megabats do not eat insects or small prey like their cousins, the microbats. In fact, megabats are often times referred to as “fruit bats” or “old world fruit bats”.

Their eating habits actually contribute to the distribution of flower pollens and fruit seeds. This relationship is a form of mutualism called chiropterophily, and describes how bats and plants help each other. Common species of Megabat include all Flying Foxes, Hammerhead Bat, Long-Tongued Nectar Bat, Egyptian Fruit Bat, and Tube-Nosed Bats.